The University of Arizona

Cattle use affects forage quality in a montane riparian ecosystem.

R.L. Phillips, M.J. Trlica, W.C. Leininger, W.P. Clary


Forage nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) concentrations and in-vitro dry-matter digestibility (IVDMD) were measured in 2 important riparian species the year following short-term, high-intensity cattle grazing treatments in a montane riparian ecosystem in northcentral Colorado. Current year's growth of water sedge (Carex aquatilus Wahlenb.) and planeleaf willow (Salix planifolia Pursh.) was collected monthly from May to September 1996. The effects of grazing and season of grazing in 1995 on forage quality the following growing season was determined. Season of grazing (i.e., late-spring, early-summer, late-summer, and fall) the previous year did not differentially affect forage quality in either species. However, grazing by cattle the previous year did increase forage quality of water sedge as compared with plants that were not previously grazed. Grazed water sedge plants had higher concentrations of N and P and greater IVDMD than ungrazed controls. Nitrogen and P concentrations of browsed planeleaf willow were not different from controls, but current year's growth collected in the fall from previously browsed plants was 11% more digestible than current year's growth from non-browsed willow. The 2 species responded uniquely to cattle use, which suggested that these 2 life forms differ in response to herbivory. This study supported the hypothesis that grazing by cattle would improve forage quality in a riparian ecosystem, although results varied with life form.


Carex aquatilis;Salix;riparian buffers;phosphorus;grazing intensity;cattle;in vitro digestibility;nitrogen content;seasonal variation

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